Shaun Payne joined the Heineken Cup Elite 50 Club when he earned his 50th cap on Sunday. We take a look at the story of the cup so far in facts and figures.
Payne joins the Elite 50 club along side several of his Munster colleagues. Top of the list is still Anthony Foley on 81 Heineken Cup Caps followed by John Hayes (72), Peter Stringer (70), Ronan O’Gara (68), John Kelly (67), Anthony Horgan, Marcus Horan and David Wallace (56), Alan Quinlan (54) and Frankie Sheahan (52).
Meanwhile after only two rounds of the 13th Heineken Cup tournament only half a dozen clubs can boast two from two – with no-one in Pool 3 recording back-to-back wins and Cardiff Blues the closest after following up their Round 1 win with a draw at Harlequins.
Pool 1 is the tightest group so far with London Irish and Perpignan yet to lose with the Sunday showdown at the Madejski Stadium on 9 December crucial to both teams’ hopes and the Exiles the only club with a maximum return of 10 points.
Elsewhere defending champions London Wasps, Gloucester Rugby, Biarritz Olympique and Toulouse have won both their matches as the tournament takes a three-week break after a thrilling start.
On the pitch there have been upsets and matches high on quality, intensity and drama, the supporters have been voting with their feet as almost a quarter of a million fans went through the turnstiles for the first two rounds. The 12 Round 2 matches attracted 120,645 to go with the tournament record for a round of 128,587 in Round 1 to add up to just 768 short of 250,000 at the 24 matches – an average of 10,385 per match across the six competing nations.
Last weekend they were suitably rewarded with 59 tries at just a fraction under five a match. Half of the Round 2 gates were five-figure ones with Toulouse taking the honours with 18,806 at Stade Ernest Wallon to see them run in four tries against Leinster followed by a professional era club record for Gloucester when 16,500 were at Kingsholm for the victory over the Ospreys. The other crowds in excess of 10,000 came at Leicester Tigers (15,865), Munster (12,003), Harlequins (11,304) and Bristol Rugby (10,756).
Perpignan celebrated becoming the 14th club to win an ERC Elite Award for 50 Heineken Cup matches while Llanelli Scarlets’ international wing Dafydd James could soon have company in the 25 Tries Club. At the moment he is the sole member with his 29 tries but, after Toulouse wing Vincent Clerc crossed against Leinster, there are now three players closing in on an award after Toulouse’s Michel Marfaing was left stranded just one try short when he retired over four years ago.
Clerc, Leinster wing Shane Horgan and Munster evergreen back row forward Anthony Foley are just two tries short of joining James as elite try scorers. Others homing in on awards are London Wasps forwards Lawrence Dallaglio and Simon Shaw who have both appeared in 49 tournament matches.
Heineken Cup Elite 50 Club
81 – Anthony Foley (Munster)
72 – John Hayes (Munster)
70 – Peter Stringer (Munster)
68 – Fabien Pelous (Dax 5, Toulouse 63), Ronan O’Gara (Munster)
67 –John Kelly (Munster)
64 – Yannick Bru (Toulouse)
62 – Chris Wyatt (Llanelli Scarlets 60, Bourgoin 2)
61 – Shane Byrne (Leinster 55, Saracens 6), Reggie Corrigan (Leinster), Shane Horgan (Leinster), Stephen Jones (Scarlets 58, Clermont 3)
60 -Christian Labit (Toulouse 58, Northampton Saints 2), Martin Corry (Leicester)
59 – Graham Rowntree (Leicester), Dafydd James (Scarlets 29, Pontypridd 14, Bridgend 4, C Warriors 6, Quins 6)
58 – Malcolm O’Kelly (Leinster), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues 40, Pontypridd 17)
57 – Victor Costello (Leinster), Trevor Brennan (Toulouse 35, Leinster 22)
56 – Anthony Horgan (Munster), David Humphreys (Ulster), Marcus Horan (Munster), David Wallace (Munster), Girvan Dempsey (Leinster)
55 – Robin McBryde (Scarlets), Nicolas Brusque (Biarritz 41, Pau 14)
54 – David Auradou (Stade Français), Denis Hickie (Leinster), Vernon Cooper (Scarlets), Alan Quinlan (Munster)
53 – Sylvain Marconnet (Stade Français), Austin Healey (Leicester)
52 – Eric Miller (Leinster 34, Leicester 12, Ulster 6), Garan Evans (Scarlets), Ben Kay (Leicester), Frankie Sheahan (Munster), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster)
51 -Martin Johnson (Leicester), John Davies (Scarlets), Alex King (Wasps 50, Clermont 1), Geordan Murphy (Leicester), Shaun Payne (Munster 28, Swansea 22)
50 -Leon Lloyd (Leicester), Pieter de Villiers (Stade Français), Gary Longwell (Ulster),